It’s most common for 12 volt DC Rv batteries to be charged with alternators or generators (with AC appliances being charged off mains, or DC inverters).
However, more Rv owners are using Rv solar setups when it comes to charging their Rv batteries.
If you are interested in this type of power setup, you have probably wondered what the best solar setup is for you situation.
You should know there are 3 types of solar setups you would look at for your Rv, with those being:
- Rigid Solar Panels
- Folding Solar Panels
- Flexible Solar Panels
Each has their own characteristics that make them unique, and you can read more about each in their specific guide’s below.
But, as an overall setup, you’ll want to determine things like the type of solar panel, the number, how you mount it etc.
That’s what the guide below is for, so let’s have a look…
What Is The Best Rv Solar Setup For Your Rv?
Select The Type Of Panel
As we mentioned above, your solar panel type choices will probably come down to either rigid, folding or flexible panels.
1. Rigid Panels – are probably the best value for money of the 3 options. You can get a very basic 100 watt (1 panel) or 200 watt (2 panels) set up to charge 1 or 2 batteries for a very reasonable price. Rigid panels are usually fixed via brackets to the roof of your Rv.
Read more about rigid solar panels in this guide.
2. Flexible Panels – flexible solar panels are not perfect, but they are very versatile and a lot of people still find them very useful. They will either be lightweight laminate, or they will be laminate that bends up to around 30 degrees for uneven and curved surfaces. One of the big benefits of using flexible panels is that they can be permanently or temporarily fixed, stuck down, or even hung from tents. They usually won’t come in a starter kit like a rigid panel – you’ll have to buy a solar controller and cables separately.
Read more about flexible solar panels in this guide.
3. Folding Panels – A folding solar panel will usually come in a travel case, and fold out with a metal stand on the ground. A Go Power! folding solar panel comes with Anderson connectors to plug straight into a trailer pin attachment if you have one. Folding solar panels can simply be folded up and packed away when you aren’t using them.
Read more about folding solar panels in this guide.
*You’ll want to get a panel, connectors, solar controller, cables and fixings/brackets as a part of most setups.
Determine The Size and Number Of Panels You Require
This is a good guide to read for estimating the size in Watts and volts, and number of solar panels you might need.
When looking at size and number of panels, keep in mind:
Most panels come in 50 and 100 watt sizes (1 or 2 100 watt panels is a great start for most setups)
Most panels come in 18 volt ratings (a standard 12 volt battery needs 13.6 volts for a full charge)
If your batteries are banked together – make sure your total wattage and voltage coming from your panels is adequate.
A lot of people will go through and calculate the individual loads each appliance needs, but a better approach can be to look at wha the full charge of your batteries is.
Always look at how many daylight hours of sun are available to you
**Always look at product/manufacturer instructions, and get professional expertise if necessary for selection and installation
Determine How You Want To Fix The Panels, Or Use Them
Do you want to fix the panels to the roof of your Rv with mounting brackets? A rigid panel may be best for this.
Do you want the option to fix, stick on or temporarily fix the panels to different surfaces, including being able to hang the panels from a tent? A flexible panel may be best.
Do you want to pack the solar set up away, and fold it out on the ground as you need to? A large folding solar panel may be best for you.
Consider The Batteries You Want To Charge, and the Appliances You Have
Rv batteries usually come as starter batteries for the engine if you have one, and deep cycle batteries for appliances or lighting etc. that run consistently.
They might also come as lead acid, or lithium ion batteries.
Keep in mind that each of these types of batteries will require slightly different charging styles in terms of connections, stages of charging and more.
Appliances like LED lighting for example will use far less energy than a DC fridge.
If using AC appliances, you’ll need an inverter.
Consider Using A Generator or Alternator Charger As A Supplement
Using a generator, alternator, AC mains and solar to complement each other can be a very powerful setup.
But, you can also get away with using just 1 or 2 solar panels if you aren’t using your power all the time or very heavily.
A reminder of the benefits of solar…
Flexible and folding solar panels have a very wide application of uses
Initial set up price might even be less than buying a generator
Energy is clean
Energy is essentially free once you’ve set it up
Can buy a solar regenerator to store DC energy, or an inverter to convert to AC energy